The Lucy Show is an American sitcom that aired on CBS from 1962 to 1968. It was Lucille Ball's follow-up to I Love Lucy. A significant change in cast and premise for the fourth season (1965–1966) divides the program into two distinct eras; aside from Ball, only Gale Gordon, who joined the program for its second season, remained. For the first three seasons, Vivian Vance was the co-star.
The earliest scripts were entitled The Lucille Ball Show, but when this title was rejected by CBS, producers thought of calling the show This Is Lucy or The New Adventures of Lucy, before deciding on the title The Lucy Show. Ball won consecutive Emmy Awards as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for the series' final two seasons, 1966–67 and 1967–68.
In 1962, two years after Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had divorced and the final episode of The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour aired (using the I Love Lucy format), Desilu Productions was struggling. In the spring of 1961, three Desilu-produced situation comedies were canceled – The Ann Sothern Show; Angel, a sitcom starring Marshall Thompson and French actress Annie Farge; and Guestward, Ho! starring Joanne Dru and Mark Miller. After a two-year run, the comedy series Pete and Gladys, starring Harry Morgan and Cara Williams, was canceled in the spring of 1962. The red-headed Williams had been promoted as the next Lucille Ball. At that time, Desilu was left with only one hit series, The Untouchables.
Arnaz, as president of Desilu, offered Ball an opportunity to return to television in a weekly sitcom. At that time, CBS executives were somewhat dubious as to whether Ball could carry a show without Arnaz, and whether she could follow such a landmark series as I Love Lucy. It was "never intended for this program to go beyond a single season."
This arrangement was "meant to be a stop-gap measure for the beleaguered studio" and that through the sale of this series, Desilu was able to "force the CBS network to invest in and air other upcoming Desilu products." It was a strategy that Ball would use in the future to take control of The Lucy Show's renewal from CBS. With Arnaz's encouragement and persuasion, Ball agreed to do the show, provided that it would be shown on Monday nights (the night on which I Love Lucy had aired) and that she would be reunited with Vivian Vance and her writers from I Love Lucy. CBS agreed to a full season of episodes, and The Lucy Show premiered on Monday night, October 1, 1962, at 8:30 p.m.
The show began with Lucille Ball as Lucy Carmichael, a widow with two children, Chris (Candy Moore) and Jerry (Jimmy Garrett), living in the fictional town of Danfield, New York, sharing her home with divorced friend Vivian Bagley (Vance) and her son, Sherman (Ralph Hart). In order to get Vance to commit to the series, Arnaz acquiesced to her demands for an increase in salary, co-star billing, a more attractive wardrobe and, finally, that her character's name is Vivian. After doing I Love Lucy, she was still being called Ethel by people on the street, much to her unhappiness.
Although the book on which the show was based, Irene Kampen's Life Without George, centered on two divorcées living together in the same house raising their children, it was decided early on that the Lucy Carmichael character should instead be a widow. The consensus was that fans would be offended with a Lucy who was divorced, despite the fact that this was a new character and Ball herself was divorced. The character of Vivian Bagley became the first divorced woman on primetime television.
In the show's original format, Lucy had been left with a substantial trust fund by her late husband, which was managed during the first season by local banker Mr. Barnsdahl (Charles Lane). Comedian Dick Martin, working solo from his longtime partner Dan Rowan, was cast in ten episodes as Lucy's next-door neighbor, Harry Connors, during the show's first season. Character actor Don Briggs was also featured in six episodes as Viv's beau, Eddie Collins, and Tom Lowell, a young actor seen on various primetime television shows, appeared in three installments as Chris Carmichael's boyfriend, Alan Harper. The first season of The Lucy Show fully utilized the talents of Bob Carroll Jr., Madelyn Martin, Bob Schiller, and Bob Weiskopf (the original writers of I Love Lucy) in creating its thirty episodes, with Desi Arnaz as executive producer for fifteen of those shows. At the end of its first season, The Lucy Show received rave reviews from the critics and ranked #5 in the Nielsen ratings. The ball was nominated for an Emmy Award as Best Actress in a Series but lost to Shirley Booth for the NBC comedy hit Hazel. Bolstered by great ratings, the series was renewed for a second year, but many changes were made.
At the beginning of the 1963–1964 season, Desi Arnaz resigned as head of Desilu and as the executive producer of The Lucy Show. The ball took over as president of the studio and Elliott Lewis replaced Arnaz as executive producer of Ball's series. Dick Martin, Don Briggs, Tom Lowell, and Charles Lane left the show. The characters of Harry Connors and Alan Harper were never mentioned again. Briggs would make one more appearance as Eddie Collins in the episode "Lucy Goes Duck Hunting".
The Barnsdall character was replaced by Theodore J. Mooney, played by Gale Gordon, who would remain with the series for the remainder of its run, surviving the format change. In the episode "Lucy Gets Locked in the Vault", Gordon's character is introduced when Lucy discovers that Mr. Barnsdahl has been transferred to another bank and that the management of her trust fund has been taken over by a new banker. The name "Theodore Mooney" had been used earlier by the actor George Cisar, who was cast as a police sergeant on thirty-one episodes of Gordon's other CBS sitcom, Dennis the Menace.
Gordon had worked with Ball as far back as 1938 on the CBS radio program The Wonder Show and later worked with her on another radio show, My Favorite Husband. When CBS retooled My Favorite Husband for television as I Love Lucy, Gordon was offered the role of Fred Mertz, but he was already committed to the radio series Our Miss Brooks (which also was about to move to television) so William Frawley was cast in the part.
In 1952, Gordon guest-starred on the first season of I Love Lucy as Ricky Ricardo's boss at the Tropicana, Alvin Littlefield. Six years later, Gordon became a regular on the short-lived NBC-TV sitcom Sally which starred actress Joan Caulfield (who inherited Lucille Ball's role as Liz Cooper when My Favorite Husband was directly adapted to television in 1953). In the late fall of 1958, Gordon guest-starred as a judge in the hour-long Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour episode "Lucy Makes Room for Danny". From 1960 to 1962, he had recurring roles on two CBS-TV sitcoms – The Danny Thomas Show and Pete and Gladys.
Gordon was to have joined The Lucy Show at its premiere in the fall of 1962, but he was still contractually obligated to Dennis the Menace, in which he had replaced the late Joseph Kearns. It was later revealed that Ball had grown unhappy with Charles Lane because of his difficulty remembering his lines in front of the studio audience and was eager to have Gordon join the cast. Lane then became a semi-regular on the CBS-TV sitcom Petticoat Junction as Homer Bedloe.
Under Ball's supervision, episodes were filmed in color beginning with the 1963–64 season, although they would continue to be broadcast in black and white up until September 1965. Ball realized that when the series ended its prime-time run, color episodes would command more money when sold to syndication. CBS was equipped for color but would only use color transmission equipment for feature films.
They stated that turning on color equipment was too tough to do for short periods. At the time most color equipment and color TV sets were made by RCA, the parent company of rival network NBC. CBS was reported [by whom?] to have felt that using color would be promoting a rival's product and would not be beneficial to CBS. Fewer than 5% of the population owned a color TV set in 1963. The second season proved to be just as popular in the ratings, ranking at #6.
At the end of the second season, a disagreement erupted between Ball and head writers Bob Carroll, Jr. and Madelyn Martin regarding a particular script Ball found inferior. As a result, Carroll, Martin, Weiskopf and Schiller left the series.
In the fall of 1964, though CBS began to broadcast sporting events and cartoons in color, they still refused to broadcast The Lucy Show in color. Through that year ownership of color TV sets grew, and several other manufacturers began making color equipment and color TV sets.
At the beginning of the 1964–65 season, The Lucy Show went through a significant staff change. Elliott Lewis left the series as executive producer and was replaced by Jack Donohue, who served as producer and director. With the absence of Carroll, Martin, Weiskopf, and Schiller, Ball hired veteran comedy writer Milt Josefsberg, who had written for Jack Benny, as script consultant. Under Josefsberg's supervision there were no permanent writers for the series and different writers were employed each week (among them, Garry Marshall). Ball persuaded Weiskopf and Schiller to return and write four installments.
There were further changes to the series. Vance reduced the number of episodes in which she appeared to spend more time on the East Coast with her new husband, literary editor John Dodds. Lucille Ball's friend Ann Sothern made a number of appearances during 1964 and 1965 as the "Countess Framboise" (née Rosie Harrigan) to fill Vance's absence. The Countess, who had been widowed by the death of her husband, "who left her his noble title and all of his noble debts," was always trying to get money to pay off her debts. She also did battle with Mr. Mooney, whom she called "Mr. Money".
Because it was known that Vance would be leaving the series, Sothern was proposed as the new co-star, but it was not to be. Sothern wanted to share top billing with Ball. This was not acceptable to Ball and, though Sothern did make three more guest appearances during the following (1965–66) season, the idea of making her a series regular was abandoned.
In the spring of 1965, Vance was growing tired of commuting weekly between her home on the East Coast and Los Angeles. To continue appearing on the show, Vance wanted more creative control with the opportunity to produce and direct episodes and to receive better pay. Agents and studio executives misinformed Ball regarding Vance's desires believing she wanted to be Ball's equal.
It was decided not to meet Vance's requests leaving both Ball and Vance feeling betrayed by the other. Vance decided to leave the series. Ball would later regret not giving Vance what she requested. Without Vance on the show, Ball seriously considered ending the series, feeling she couldn't continue without her.
Even though Candy Moore, Jimmy Garrett, and Ralph Hart were still contracted to the series, they were used minimally during the third year. For example, in the episode "Lucy and The Old Mansion", which was the final Season 3 installment, filmed in January 1965, Moore, Garrett, and Hart appear in the opening scene, have a few lines of dialogue, then exit. It is the last time in which all of the three children are seen, and they were subsequently written out in Season 4. Dropping Candy Moore, in fact, was Ball's decision. Because Moore was very popular with teenagers and the subject of dozens of articles in youth-oriented magazines at the time, her departure was originally nixed by CBS but finally accepted when Ball threatened to "retire."
In the first episode of the fourth season, Lucy and Jerry Carmichael and Mr. Mooney moved from Danfield to California, where Lucy began working for Mr. Mooney at the bank, first part-time, and then full-time. Lucy's daughter Chris was said to have gone away to college and was not mentioned again.
It was explained that Vance's character (Vivian Bagley) remarried and that she, along with her son Sherman and her new husband, remained in Danfield, although she would return for a few guest appearances towards the end of the series' run. With Candy Moore and Ralph Hart having already left the show at this point, only Jimmy Garrett was retained, but he would make only two appearances to support the transition before he, too, was phased out of the series.
This procedure was later explained by Oscar Katz, one of Desilu's vice presidents. According to Katz, "If you go into a network with the same series but a radically changed format, the contracts allow for greater financial renegotiation." Candy Moore adds, "By dropping all of us at once, Desilu was able to get a lot more money out of CBS for the continuation of The Lucy Show."
In the fourth season premiere episode, "Lucy at Marineland", Jerry was quickly shipped off to a military academy. He made one final appearance, in a Christmas-themed episode, midway in the 1965–66 season. Sothern made three more guest appearances as the Countess, and Joan Blondell guest-starred in two episodes as Lucy's new friend Joan Brenner. However, Ball felt there was no chemistry between her and Blondell.
Finally, Lucy gained a new best friend, Mary Jane Lewis (Mary Jane Croft). Croft had prior experience performing with Ball and was the wife of former executive producer Elliott Lewis. In 1954, she made her first appearance on I Love Lucy playing Cynthia Harcourt, a rich, haughty friend of Lucy Ricardo in the episode "Lucy Is Envious".
In 1956, she returned to the series playing Evelyn Bigsby, a bewildered traveler seated next to Lucy on an airplane in the fifth season finale, "Return Home from Europe". During the 1950s, Croft also had occasional roles on I Married Joan and Our Miss Brooks. She was also the voice of Cleo, the basset hound in the sitcom The People's Choice. In 1957, Croft joined the cast of I Love Lucy during its final season playing Lucy Ricardo's new friend and neighbor Betty Ramsey for the program's last thirteen episodes. Croft then portrayed Lucy Carmichael's friend Audrey Simmons during the 1962–64 episodes of The Lucy Show.
In the third season, with the departure of Elliott Lewis as executive producer, Croft had also left the series, although her character of Audrey was still referred to in a few episodes but never seen. At this time, Croft had also been a regular for ten years on the long-running ABC-TV sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which was in its final year of production in 1965.
In returning to The Lucy Show in the fall of 1965 as a new character, Croft was clearly replacing Vance as Lucy's cohort and comrade; she did not, however, get co-star billing – like Roy Roberts, who played Mooney's boss at the bank, she received featured billing despite playing a regular character.
In the fall of 1965, CBS began broadcasting all programming in color but continued to produce some programming in black and white.
By January 1966, all references to Lucy Carmichael's children, her trust fund, and her former life in Danfield were dropped. Lucy Carmichael was firmly established as a single woman living in Los Angeles. Lucy worked in films disguised as stunt man "'Iron Man' Carmichael" for three episodes ("Lucy the Stunt Man", "Lucy and the Return of Iron Man", and "Lucy and Bob Crane").
At the end of the 1965–66 season Lucille Ball was nominated for her second Emmy for The Lucy Show as Best Actress in a Comedy Series, however, Mary Tyler Moore took home the trophy for her role as Laura Petrie for The Dick Van Dyke Show.
The next two seasons featured many stars making guest appearances as themselves conducting business at Lucy's bank. For the last two seasons, Vivian Vance made three guest appearances in her role as Vivian Bagley (except it was now Vivian Bunson, as her character had gotten married again when Lucy Carmichael moved to California).
In all three episodes in which Viv visited Lucy, there were passing references to their former life in Danfield as well as Viv's new husband, but no mention was made about any of their children. In the fifth-year episode "Lucy Gets Caught Up In The Draft", Lucy Carmichael receives a letter from her son, who is away in military school. In that installment, he is called Jimmy, not Jerry. During the filming of that particular show, Ball was constantly being corrected by her crew saying that the son's name was Jerry and that Jimmy Garrett had played that part and that was the reason for her being confused.
However, Ball refused to listen and so the error stayed in and that was the last reference to Lucy Carmichael's son. For the 1966–1967 season, Gale Gordon was nominated for an Emmy Award as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, but lost to Don Knotts. Maury Thompson received a nomination for Best Directing in a Comedy Series and is the only Lucy director ever to receive a nomination in the directing category.
After eleven years, Ball was finally awarded an Emmy as "Best Actress in a Comedy Series" (she had previously won two, as "Best Comedienne" in 1953 and as "Best Actress in a Continuing Performance" in 1956 for I Love Lucy).
During the 1967–68 season, Ball's second husband, Gary Morton, became executive producer of The Lucy Show. Lucille Ball sold Desilu Productions to Gulf+Western Industries, abandoning ownership of the series. In the spring of 1968, The Lucy Show won Emmy nominations for Best Comedy Series, Milt Josefsberg for Best Writing in a Comedy Series, Lucille Ball for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, and Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Gordon).
This time, Gordon lost the award to Werner Klemperer of Hogan's Heroes, and the show itself lost the Best Comedy Series Award to the NBC sitcom Get Smart. For the second straight year, Ball was awarded the coveted statuette. At the end of its sixth season, The Lucy Show posted its highest Nielsen rating, ranking at #2.
After six seasons, Ball decided to end the series, feeling that the show had enough episodes for syndication. Ball opted to continue on television under the provision that her two children, Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz Jr., agreed to appear alongside her. Thus, in the fall of 1968, an entirely new series, Here's Lucy, debuted. This series featured her and her children, as well as Gordon, Croft, and Vance in occasional guest appearances as new characters which were similar to their characters on the former series. Like I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show, Here's Lucy ran on CBS for six seasons.